The only thing that is tiresome about Gucci Mane is the narrative that Rap critics have created for him. If there isn’t a reference to his ill-advised facial tattoo, his multiple stints in the clink, his one time stint in the mental hospital, or his altercation with a woman that resulted in her being ejected from his moving car, it seems to never really feel like a Gucci Mane review. None of this has anything to do Gucci Mane’s music really; he raps about 4 or 5 things over and over again: “Bitches”, Drugs, Cars, Clothes and killing other dudes (depending on his mood) and this doesn’t separate him from other rappers. Rick Ross, for instance has had no real run-ins with the law outside of a few weed arrests and he makes an effort to also rap about those 5 things pretty well. Even if the argument is that Gucci’s mental state provided context for his music, his legal infractions can’t really prove to be byproducts of that so why are we even talking about it? Most likely, it is because it provides a pivot point for what people really want to convey: La Flare fell off.
Gucci’s most fertile period is typically considered to be between 2008 and 2009 with classic mixtapes like the Burrprint 3D, Gucci Sosa, and his Cold war series. After this period, Gucci, if narrative is to be believed, became a middling rapper who continued to squander his moderate amount of heat by constantly getting in trouble with the law and putting out Swizz Beat helmed singles. He released mixtapes and albums between jail stints, but it’s believed that his time had passed. Crunkier characters like his friend and fellow Bricksquad member Waka Flocka Flame had eclipsed his sound, and Gucci Mane was old news. But wait! The redemption! This year Gucci put out 4 mixtapes: Trap Back, I’m Up, Gucci Mane 3D and Trap God, and even if Gucci Mane 3D is mostly a compilation tape of features and loosies designed to get you excited for a “DVD” you can download, his new material felt a like fresh air clearing out the stultifying baking soda and rock stink of a trap house. Here we saw Gucci Mane returning to form, creating something that reminded his fans of his greatest run!
The problem with this narrative is that Gucci Gu-op never fell off. Comparing Rap in 2012 to Rap a decade prior is like comparing Broadband to Telephone modems; it’s blindingly fast. Projects that were released at the beginning of the year feel like they were released a millennium ago. Over the last 6 years, Gucci Mane has released almost 40 projects if you include his collaborations with rappers like Shawty Lo, and most of them are at the very least pretty okay. In 2010, Supporters were waiting for another Gucci Sosa, but he still dropped Jewelry Selection, one of the best mixtapes of the year. In 2011, Supporters of Gucci were decrying him, saddened by his tag team with V- Nasty and his disappointing collab with Waka Flocka as The Ferarri Boyz, but they forgot that he released the underrated and incredibly soild Return of Mr. Zone 6 at the start of the year, and even if Writings On The Wall 2 was good to so-so, his collaborations with Future where some of the best records of the year. Gucci never fell off! He was just putting out so much that everyone has taken him for granted.
And so all of this leads to his “renaissance” in 2012. On a very basic level, trying to compare Trap Back, I’m Up and to a lesser extent Trap God is difficult as they all easily bleed into each other. Each tape personifies what makes Gucci a good rapper**: A great ear for stark, crawling beats created by rouge’s gallery of ATL Beatmakers, sticky and clever word play sometimes obscured by his mumbling monotone flow, and bizarre but concrete imagery that betrays his ignorant thug persona. His first tape of the year, and best by margins, brings insane production helmed predominantly by ATL producer of the year and video game junkie Mike Will Made It and Gucci main-stay Zeytoven, ear grabbing choruses, and a litany of quotable lines that showcase Gucci’s brilliantly warped sense of humor. Lines like “Every word mean two things/ so the white girl is my boo thing.” “I’m a stash house with shoes on” and “Junkies dead at the car wash they was snitchin’/ dough jumpin’ out da gym/ man it helped me buy my ‘tims/ dope fiend Willie used to finger fuck my rims” showcase a love of words under his sneering and unbalanced exterior. Gucci can paint a picture so well that he can extend his repetitious subject matter’s shelf life. Concept records like “Walking Lick” in which Gucci names the many ways in which he resembles a walking trap house would become tedious affairs in lesser hand, but Gucci, and his cohort Waka Flocka, make it one of the strongest tracks on the tape. “Plain Jane”, a braggart’s affair, follows suit as Gucci raps about how rich he is and begins with “I know my body took a lot of ink/ Lungs smoke a lot of stink/Bladder pissed a lot of pink/ Cause that lean I like to drink/ My face got a lot tats/My girl got a lot gold/ My mouth talk a lot of S-t/ my dick fuck a lot of hos.” Every track drips with a sort of sinister underpinning that holds down Gucci’s wordplay no matter how hilarious it is. It’s impossible to listen to the minor chord pan flute crawl and paranoid android Future feature of “Brick Fair” and ignore the deadly serious material even as Gucci drops a Kayfabe joke about Ric Flair.
Similarly, I’m Up his second of the tape of the year, often matches, and in some cases exceeds Trap Back. Here Gucci seems clearer than he was on Trap Back. His voice loses some of its mush mouth mumble and it’s a bit easier to hear his punch lines and their sneaky complexity. The beats are a bit more uniform, mostly painting darker, muddy textures and plodding rhythms created by various members of Lex Lugar’s 808 mafia. This swampy murk lends itself to night driving and makes for a cohesive listen, but could easily wear on some and detract from the rapping. Here standouts shine because they let in some sunshine. “Cyeah” produced by the reclusive Polow Da Don is all Koto plucks and NES arpeggios. Gucci’s monotone flow sounds brighter and more playful as he tries to seduce club going ladies while Lil Wayne sloppily creeps on married women with his comically large penis while eating the tops of their wedding cakes post coitus. Even the maligned Chris Brown drops a decent verse here*** It’s these kinds of moments that offset the clever, dangerous and no less spectacular songs like “Kansas” where Gucci weaves drug trafficking tales with a maniacal Jim Jones. And “Get Lost” where Gucci is at his most sneering over a grinding bass heavy beat. Without the goof ball moments of I’m Up the tape would be an oppressive affair, a problem that rears its ugly head on the solid but lesser Trap God.
Trap God suffers from most from its lack of tempo breaking tracks, and a feature list dominated by up and coming Bricksquad third fiddle Young Scooter who lends nothing but apathy to the songs he’s on. “Rolly Up” a so-so track already, suffers under the weight of Young Scooter’s Gucci- like flow and boring uninspired lines. Tracks like the “Don’t Trust” are fine but forgettable affairs. Still, Trap God has some pretty solid material even if it doesn’t have definite hits. “Act Up” with its rolling square waves, rising bass lines and phantom robot T-pain feature; “That’s That “with its sparkling “Backstabbers” sample; and the Mike Will Produced, Future featuring “Fuck the world” with its earworm chorus are all stand out tracks even if they won’t catch fire on Rap Radio. Not to say that that is even Gucci’s game. Trap God seems to be more focused on angering faceless enemies and constant nemesis Young Jeezy. Even after the best diss track of the year, “Truth” dropped, we are still left with “Head Shots” and “Get Money Nigga” both strong tracks, containing pretty clear references to his ongoing beef with the Thug Motivator. This vindictive anger often lacks the full humor Gucci is best at, and sometimes Trap God can be a slog because of it.
Regardless, Trap God is a solid tape that does not detract from the other two tapes’ material**** and solidifies Gucci’s status of most valuable player in hip hop mixtapes for 2012. No one else has put out 59 tracks worth of solid solo material this year that come close to Gucci. Gucci has said that he wants to put out 10 albums next year and has already slated a collaboration tape with Young Scooter. I’m not sure how successful Gucci’s E-40 approach will be, but if these tapes are any indication of Gucci’s future output, it will certainly be worth tuning in for.
*There were some anomalies of course Hypnotized Minds and No Limit for instance.
** This is the context of the review. If you don’t think Gucci is a good rapper that is fine. Go embarrass yourself in a cipher somewhere.
***Most likely ghostwritten. He sounds suspiciously like Yelawolf.
**** I am not going to review Gucci 3D because it’s more of a compilation of tracks from other artists tapes and beat jackings. Check it though. Specifically, “Mouf” with Rocko and Plies.
Written by D.L